."Like father, like son"




MORAL character, energy, and industry are ascribed to Nathaniel, the first of the Bacons to set foot upon the soil of New England. They are the qualities of each successive generation. They were notably conspicuous in Robert Bacon.

The Bacons did not live for themselves alone; they held these qualities as a trust for the benefit of others. They devoted their talents in first instance to the service of the little colony of Plymouth, later to the service of the colony of Massachusetts Bay, and lastly to the service of this Union of States which we call the United States. And the mental horizon broadened in each case and with each successive generation.

The Nathaniel Bacon from whom Robert Bacon was descended came direct from England, from Stratton, in the county of Cornwall., He arrived in Barnstable in 1639, the year of the settlement of that town in the neck of Cape Cod, to seek his fortune in America. He was thus one of the first settlers of the little town which counts among its notables James Otis, whose speech against the Writs of Assistance sounded the note of Revolution, and Lemuel Shaw, the famous Chief Justice of Massachusetts and one of the greatest of American judges. On the house lot assigned to him, still owned by his descendants, Nathaniel Bacon built his house in 1642, which stood for 187 years, occupied during this period by successive Bacons. He was a tanner and currier by trade, enjoying the respect and confidence of the good people of Barnstable. They showed their respect in admitting him a freeman to the company in 1646; they confessed their confidence by electing him constable of the town, and by sending him annually for a period of thirteen years as their deputy to the General Court or legislative body. The Governor and seven assistants formed the executive and judiciary of Plymouth. From 1667 to his death, which occurred in 1673, Nathaniel Bacon was one of these assistants, and in 1658 and in 1667 a member of the Council of War. He was apparently a man of judgment and of parts; he was certainly a man of prominence and of influence in the colony.

There are other evidences of his standing in the community. The common title of men and women among the first settlers of the Cape was Goodman and Goodwife. Only those belonging to more than ordinarily distinguished families or holding offices of reputed dignity and importance were addressed as Mr. or Mrs. Etiquette was strictly guarded and observed. In this hotbed of democracy " the distinction," it has been said, "between the Roman patricians and plebeians was not of greater importance."(1) In a list of ninety inhabitants of the town of Barnstable, Nathaniel Bacon was one of ten having the title "Mr."

A custom of a very different kind had grown up, which sorely tried the patience of the godly. Men among the first settlers allowed their beards to grow long. Therefore drastic action was taken, as was the wont in such cases. In 1649 the good men of Barnstable removed their beards. The leading lights of the town got together, and drafted and signed the following paper:

Forasmuch as the wearing long hair, after the manner of the Russians and barbarous Indians, has begun to invade New England, contrary to the rule of God's word, and the commendable custom of all the godly, until within this few years, we, the magistrates, who have subscribed this paper (for the showing of our own innocency in this behalf), do declare and manifest our dislike and detestation against the wearing of such long hair, as against a thing uncivil and unmanly, whereby men do deform themselves, and offend sober and modest men, and do corrupt good manners.(2)

Nathaniel Bacon's distinguished descendant heeded the admonition as if he had been a signer.

Tobacco, also, was a source of worry to the little community. Its use was therefore early prohibited under a penalty, and its fumes were compared by learned divines to "the smoke of the bottomless pit." The temptation was, however, too strong for many of the Pilgrims. Some of the clergy and other magnates fell into the habit of smoking, and as they quaintly put it "tobacco was set at liberty."(3) Likewise in this respect Nathaniel Bacon's descendant showed himself of the stricter sect. He stood fast where the clergy had faltered.

The first "Mrs." Bacon of America had a claim of her own to the title. She was Hannah, the daughter of the Reverend John Mayo, who in 1642, the year of his marriage, was "teacher" of the little Church of Barnstable. The reverend gentleman was, like his son-in-law, born in England, but, unlike him, he was a graduate of an English university. He came over in 1638 or thereabouts. In 1639 he was in Barnstable, where a year later he was ordained a teaching elder in connection with the Reverend John Lothrop, a name which some two centuries later John Lothrop Motley has made justly famous. This was a great event for the little community and the details were carefully chronicled by the participants and have been handed down for the edification of their descendants.

Dayes of Thanksgiveing since we came to Barnestable

Decemb. 11, 1639, att Mr. Hulls house, for Gods exceeding mercye in bringing us hither Safely keeping us healthy & Well in of weake beginnings & in our church Estate. The day beeing very cold or praises to God in publique being ended, wee devided into 3 companies to feast togeather, some att Mr. Hulls, some att Mr. Maos, some att Brother Lumberds senior.(4)

Of the ceremony "Mr." Lothrop thus writes in his diary:

Dayes of Humiliation at Barnestable

2. Aprill. 15, 1640, att the investing of my Brother Mao into the office of a Teaching Ellder, uppon whome, my Selfe Brother Hull, Brother Cobb Lay on hands.(5)

Elder Mayo was admitted freeman the next year. He made his way in the world, becoming first minister of the Second or North Church in Boston in 1655. Nine years later Increase Mather, famous in the annals of Massachusetts, became his assistant, succeeding as second minister nine years later, when Mr. Mayo returned to Barnstable to spend the last three years of his life. It is reasonable to suppose that such a man would be highly respected among Pilgrims and Puritans. He was. He is specifically mentioned by Nathaniel Morton, Secretary of the colony, who, writing about this time, says that "the Lord was pleased of his great goodness, richly to accomplish and adorn the colony of Plimouth, as well as other colonies in New England, with a considerable number of godly and able gospel preachers, who then being dispersed and disposed of, to the several churches and congregations thereof, gave light in a glorious and resplendent manner, as burning and shining lights."(6)

Nathaniel Bacon had married into the ministry. His son, Nathaniel, Jr., the second of the name, married in 1673, the year of his father's death, Sarah, the daughter of Governor Thomas Hinckley. The children of this marriage, including the seconds on Samuel, from whom Robert Bacon was descended in the direct line, were thus connected with the magistracy and the ministry, the two most highly considered classes of the colony.

Governor Hinckley was a person of repute; a man of great energy of character, "the staff and stay of Church and State." His record is set forth with pardonable pride in the inscription on the monument raised to his memory in the old graveyard of Barnstable:

Beneath this Stone
Erected 1829
Are deposited the Mortal Remains of
Thomas Hinckley.
He died A. D. 1706, aged 85 years.
History bears witness to his piety,
usefulness and agency
in the public transactions of his time.
The important offices he was called to fill
Evidence the esteem in which he was held
by the People
He was successively elected an assistant in
The Government of Plymouth Colony
from 1658 to 1681 and
Except during the Interruption by
Sir Edmund Andros
from 1681 to the
Junction of Plymouth with Massachusetts
in 1692.

Grandfather of Robert Bacon

Commanded by Daniel C. Bacon

Mother of Robert Bacon

Epitaphs are proverbially generous, but the Governor filled a large space in the history of Barnstable, town and county, and in the affairs of Plymouth. He had stood by the cradle of the colony in its infancy; from early youth until old age he had associated with its great and good men, and he was the chief man in the colony when its last chapter was written.

Edward Bacon, the youngest son of "Deacon" Samuel Bacon, trod in the footsteps of his maternal grandfather, in that his chief business was public service. For many years he occupied a prominent position in the town and county of Barnstable, and in the Colony of Massachusetts Bay. He held important offices and performed their duties, it is said, with signal ability. In the sixty-eight years that made up his life he was at sundry times town clerk, a deacon of the Church, eight years a selectman, representative to the General Court in 1773-4-8-9 and 80, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention which met in Cambridge in 1779, and Judge of the Common Pleas and General Sessions from his appointment in 1764 to the Revolution. Squire Bacon, as he was commonly known, was inclined to favour the established order of things, but he stood by his people against the Crown. The character and spirit of the man are shown in a little incident in the days of the tea troubles of 1773:

When Mrs. James Perkins---the daughter of our good Mr. Peck, and widow of James Perkins who was a prominent patriot and had signed the remonstrance to Governor Hutchinson---thought it best to retire from Boston, it was a noted loyalist, Squire Bacon (and the more noted because loyalists were very few outside the limits of Boston), who welcomed her and her eight children. He wrote that he had a house with twenty rooms in it, and that she and her children should live there till times were better. It was there in the Bacon House, on Cape Cod, that her eldest daughter Elizabeth met and married my father's grandfather, Russell Sturgis.(7)

Ebenezer Bacon was the youngest son of the Squire and Patience Marston, the daughter of a well-to-do millwright and patriot of Salem. Like his father, he was a man of note and served the public as justice of the Court of Common Pleas, County Treasurer, Registrar of Deeds, Selectman of Barnstable, to mention but a few of the offices which he held from time to time. He died in 1811, at the age of fifty-five. In the epitaph which adorns his tomb he is said to have been "amiable," "an affectionate husband," and "a tender parent." There is certainly no exaggeration here, for the records of the family state that he had sixteen children spread over his three matrimonial ventures. The conventional year was observed between the first two marriages; the third was a month short. The reasons for this seeming haste are thus stated by Miss Julia Bacon, Ebenezer's great-granddaughter: "I suppose in those days of large families and few servants, men who lost their wives were obliged to marry again without losing time in order to have someone to take care of their children, but I have always been told," she adds, "that Squire Bacon was heard to say that 'Ma' Bacon [the third of the wives] was the prettiest girl at his wife's funeral." The husband's choice was confirmed many years later by no less a person than Edward Everett, who stayed at the Bacon farm for the second centennial of Barnstable, after his return from the Court of St. James's, as American Minister, and who then stated that he had "never seen any lady who presided with such dignity at her own table." Tall and stately, and with a face as if of white marble, she was, to quote again the great-granddaughter, "very, very tidy; on one occasion most unfortunately so, for in her husband's absence she took the opportunity [and what woman does not] to clean house so thoroughly that she burnt up all his papers and letters which would now be so interesting. Many of these were deeds and bonds which he held in trust for others, and the confusion thus caused was great."(8) The fact that husband and wife continued to live together after this episode and that she died in a green old age, long after her husband's death, is perhaps the greatest testimony to the truth of the epitaph that Ebenezer Bacon was indeed an "amiable" person and an "affectionate husband."

Robert Bacon's grandfather, Daniel Carpenter Bacon, was the first of the family to put to sea since the fateful voyage of Nathaniel Bacon to Cape Cod. From Captain Bacon as he is called, the love of the sea., born in every Bacon, is said to be inherited. From his ancestors he himself inherited a goodly share of the prudence, integrity, energy, and uprightness which they possessed. He added to the inheritance. Robert Bacon was in person and in character the grandson of the Captain.

In an oration at the First Anniversary of the Cape Cod Association, Mr. Henry A. Scudder gives this picture of the youthful New Englander of other days:

The system of early training upon the Cape is singularly calculated to develop peculiar attributes of character. I speak not now of that learning which is taught in books, but of that discipline which comes only from experience and association. We borrow unconsciously much of character and destiny from the surrounding circumstances of our early life. The career of the Cape Cod boy is a striking illustration of this fact. By early education he becomes a sailor. From his infancy he looks upon the ocean as his future theatre of action. The very nursery is to him a scene of preparation. A neatly modelled vessel is, in fact, the beau-ideal of his childish fancy. The pigmy craft becomes his chosen plaything. At seven, he trims her little sails, and navigates her skilfully from creek to creek. At eight, he takes preliminary lessons---he ventures upon his favorite element, and learns the art of swimming. At ten, he is usually master of the rudiments, and is ready to embark upon the fortunes of a sailor's life---to him so full of novelty and romance. . . . He steps on board his gallant ship with a heart full of noble aspirations. He rejoices in the office of a cabin-boy, and yet he gazes with a longing eye upon the post of foremast-hand. He laughs to think the time is coming when he may climb those dizzy heights and do an able seaman's duty . . . . Rising, step by step, through every grade in regular succession, from cabin-boy to captain, he at length assumes that high command, and enters upon its duties as a monarch of the deep. Upon that floating deck he knows no master now. His will, his word, his judgment, and his purpose, are supreme. The lives, the fortunes, the property and hopes of many are entrusted to his care. With a strong and unfailing heart he meets his great responsibilities. Thus is he schooled and thus is he fitted for his exalted sphere.(9)

Miss Julia Bacon states that at a very early age the future captain "set forth for Boston mounted like d'Artagnan under the same circumstances on an old white horse. To complete the resemblance he fell in with some boys who called him 'Bushwhacker,' whereupon he promptly dismounted and thrashed them. . . . On arriving at his journey's end, he hired someone to ride his horse back to Barnstable and entered on his career as a sailor."(10) This was in 1809. He shipped at once before the mast and rose to the command of a vessel when little more than twenty, just about the age at which his grandson graduated from Harvard College.

Captain Bacon followed the sea for many years, mindful alike of his owners' interests and his own in the commercial ventures in which he was allowed to participate. He amassed a competence, and spent the last years of his life as a shipowner and merchant on his own account, in the Pacific trade, especially with China.

"The style and gentility of a ship and her crew depend upon the length and character of the voyage. An India or China voyage always is the thing, and a voyage to the Northwest coast (the Columbia River or Russian America) for furs is romantic and mysterious, and if it takes the ship round the world, by way of the Islands and China, it out-ranks them all."(11) Tried by this standard, Captain Bacon out-ranked them all in "the length and character of the voyage." The following extract from Miss Julia Bacon's manuscript life of her grandfather supplied the evidence and shows the nerve of the skipper upon his second trip in command of a merchantman, the Packet of Salem:

In 1811 Capt. Bacon started on a voyage which was to last three years. He went first to England, then to Alaska, where he stayed a long time collecting skin to trade in China. Just as his ship was ready to sail a vessel arrived from Salem, with the news that war was declared with England. He arranged then to leave half his skins with the Governor of Alaska in case he was captured by the British. The Governor gave him a farewell dinner, and the next day he started for Macao. He arrived safely and exchanged his skins for merchandise, and by the time he was ready to sail the port had been blockaded by the British.

The winds were fair, and after fretting some days he decided to run the blockade, which he did successfully one night. With a splendid breeze behind him, he would not risk the chance of losing everything by a delay, however short, and wishing to send back the pilot when well out to sea, he had a boat run out under the stern and without any stop, dropped the poor Chinaman into her much against his will.

On his next voyage to China he found the man had reached home safely.

A man was kept at the masthead all the way home to look out for British ships, . . . but on reaching home he found peace had been declared Dec. 24th, 1814, and he was able to sell his cargo at great advantage.(12)

Of the voyage of the Packet "Hawser Martingale," one of the crew, forced by an accident to leave the ship, writes pleasantly in his Jack in the Forecastle:

At that time the trade with the Indians for furs on the north-west coast was carried on extensively from Boston. The ships took out tobacco, molasses, blankets, hardware, and trinkets in large quantities. Proceeding around Cape Horn, they entered the Pacific Ocean, and on reaching the north-west coast, anchored in some of the bays and harbours; north of Columbia River. They were visited by canoes from the shore, and traffic commenced. The natives exchanged their furs for articles useful or ornamental. The ship went from port to port until a cargo of furs was obtained, and then sailed for Canton, and disposed of them to the Chinese for silks and teas. After an absence of a couple of years the ship would return to the United States with a cargo worth a hundred thousand dollars. Some of the most eminent merchants in Boston, in this way, laid the foundation of their fortunes.

The trade was not carried on without risk. The north-west coast of America at that period had not been surveyed; no good charts had been constructed, and the shores were lined with reefs and sunken rocks, which, added to a climate where boisterous winds prevailed, rendered the navigation dangerous.

This traffic was attended with other perils. The Indians were blood-thirsty and treacherous; and it required constant vigilance on the part of a ship's company to prevent their carrying into execution some deep-laid plan to massacre the crew and gain possession of the ship. For this reason the trading vessels were always well armed and strongly manned. With such means of defence, and a reasonable share of prudence on the part of the Captain, there was but little danger. . . .

She [the Packet) was to be commanded by Daniel C. Bacon, a young, active, and highly intelligent ship-master, who a few years before, had sailed as a mate with Capt. William Sturgis and had thus studied the principles of his profession in a good school, and under a good teacher.

He had made one successful voyage to that remote quarter in command of a ship.

Captain Bacon, as is known to many of my readers, subsequently engaged in mercantile business in Boston, and for many years, until his death, not long since, his name was the synonym of mercantile enterprise, honour and integrity. . . .

Although his appearance commanded respect, it was not calculated to inspire awe; and few would have supposed that beneath his quiet physiognomy and benevolent cast of features were concealed a fund of energy and determination of character which could carry him safely through difficulty and danger.(13)

The running of the blockade shows that Captain Bacon was a man of spirit. He picked out men of spirit to command his ships, as the following incident sufficiently indicated:

Captain Fuller was in command of one of Grandfather's ships once in China when some sailors deserted from a British man of war and shipped on his vessel. The British Commander sent word to Captain Fuller to give up the men or he would come to take them.

Captain Fuller replied that he had two guns on his ship and he should only use one of them, but if the man-of-war attempted to touch one of his men, he would blow her out of the water.

With that he set sail and as his ship was faster than the Englishman's, he carried off the sailors. (14)

There is no dearth of information about this man of the sea. There are many interesting passages to be found in his "logs"; in the instructions which Mr. Theodore Lyman prepared for those in his employ, and in the captain's own instructions to Eben Bacon, Robert Bacon's uncle. The skipper, with whom this future captain made his first voyage, was instructed "to obey orders if it broke owners." On a later occasion Captain Bacon was himself instructed by the Puritan owner to "live well, but live frugally." "I am not displeas'd," he says in another letter, "because I have these extra things to pay for, but because it alarms me, lest it may be the beginning of needless expense. The profits in trade now will not justify an unnecessary waste of money. Besides, I prefer to have a penny saved to two that is earned. No man can be poor if he is willing and knows how to save.

"You know my feelings on the subject. It is highly gratifying to see prudence and discretion mark a young man's steps. Canton is a place where much may be wasted; indeed, there seems a fatality that attends that part of the business there. I hope it will be your lot to escape the very many dangers which surround all who go to that place to do business."(15)

In this atmosphere of prudence and frugality Captain Bacon grew up and prospered, and he passed on to his family the maxims which he had received from others and which he himself had followed.

Before taking up the captain's instructions to his son, there are a couple of passages from one of the logs of an early voyage which have more than a passing interest. Under date of March 30, 1811, the young seaman said:

Light winds with pleasant weather and smooth Sea which is very pretty sailing after heavy blows, but men are such uneasy mortals that they are never satisfied after a few days of such weather they begin to wish for a gale again to change the scene.(16)

A few days later, on April 19th, he wrote:

Descried a sail to windward and lay by for him to come up. It proved to be the British Ship Mercury from Liverpool bound to Demarara 36 days out. Being anxious to hear what was doing in the United States, I sent my Boat on board of him. He gave me several papers, a barrel of Potatoes and 3 dozen of Porter and insisted on my taking 2 dozen of fowles, as he was sure [we] must stand in need of them after being so long at sea, but I could not put brass enough on to take them. After sending him on board a few pieces of Nankins, I filled away, it being all I had that I could give him in return.(17)

In 1949, Eben Bacon made his first voyage to China as supercargo. Under date of May 28th of that year Captain Bacon wrote a letter which is characteristic of the father and shows the kind of son he wanted:


You being about to leave your family and friends for a foreign country for the first time, I think a father's advice, who has had much experience with the world, will not be of any injury to you and I hope will be of some service and trust it will be, for I have no other object in giving it than for your future welfare and happiness. I have now got to be an old man and almost the sole object I have in view is the welfare of my children, and to see them grow up and become industrious, virtuous, and respectable members of society is the greatest happiness that I can expect to receive in this world. You can never know the anxiety a parent feels for his children while you are only a son, and I thank God I have full confidence in them now and trust I may never be disappointed. You are now entering upon a new mode of life , and it is very necessary that you should live peaceably with all that you have to associate with; treat everyone you have to deal with as you would wish to be treated yourself and you will almost to a certainty have them respect and treat you as a gentleman. Always have an opinion of your own and maintain it in a gentlemanly manner, until you are fully convinced that you are wrong, and when you are once convinced, do not be ashamed to acknowledge it.

At the age of two

Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts


The second son, William B. Bacon, was sent to Exeter, where he boarded with Doctor Perry. The letter which the Captain wrote in behalf of Robert Bacon's father is lost. The reply to it is full of interest:

Exeter, January 9th, 1837


Dear Sir:

I have yours of the 5th in regard to taking your son to board. Under all the circumstances I hardly know what to say to you.

It has not been our intention to take any into our family, thinking that we were comfortably supplied with our own. We however took one at the beginning of the last-term for a companion for my son. It is a very great injury to boys, and I may say ruin to almost every one, who comes to the Academy young, to have a room by themselves otherwise than a place to go aside for studying their lessons. The first consequence is a companion to pass away an hour, the next is the visit must be returned. This will be quickly followed by something to help entertain each other, and then idle habits if nothing worse are at once acquired. This is what I will not consent to, and consequently few boys after they have been boarding here for a term or two would be willing to submit to our regulations. We have no objection to their having company but on the contrary encourage it, but at proper times and then in our family, where we try to make everything agreeable to them. And if they visit it must be on similar conditions, but never be out evenings, idling away their time.

Such is the general outline of my ideas but at the same time I desire to remember the indiscretions of children and govern myself accordingly. Now if your son thought he could be happy in this way of living, and in fact be one of the family, and not, strictly speaking a boarder, I don't know but we should consent to taking him, and also on this condition. when he is dissatisfied he has nothing to do but to take himself off, and if we see fit for any reasons we shall without hesitation inform you that it may be done on our part. You will excuse my detailed answer, believing that I could not do justice to myself, and also to you in the present instance without it. . . .

Yours very respectfully,

WM. PERRY.(18)

That Robert Bacon's own views were like those of the Captain is evident from various letters which he, the grandson, wrote many years later to his son, Robert Low Bacon. The first of a series of three was written in January, 1895:


I have not yet written a letter to you, have I? Although I have had such nice ones from you. I am very busy down town all day and when I have any time to spare, I write to Mother and she has told you how much I miss you all and think of you all the time, and how pleased I am when I hear that you are doing better with your lessons and are really trying to help Mother and do what she wants you to cheerfully and with a smile on your face, and that you are manly and gentle and unselfish. These are the things, my dear little Boy, which make people love you, and which make you happy, and life worth living---and I am very glad to hear that you are trying hard.

Remember all these things, little man, be "Valliant and True". . .

The second was written in the summer of the same year:


Mother and I have been wondering ever since you left how you were getting on and what you were doing.

We thought of you arriving at Camp and unpacking your blankets and making your bed for the night, and we hoped all the time that our little boy was thinking of us and his home sometimes and that he was very happy and manly and brave like the little Chevalier Bayard when he first left his Mother and went away from home out into the world.(19)

You remember, too, little Sir Christalan about whom Mother read to you. His motto, his watchword was:---"Valliant and True." Let that be yours, my little son, and always stop to think, when things go wrong, what it means.

I shall send your new camp clothes as soon as possible. . .

The third, completing the series, is on the departure of the first-born for Groton:

Thursday, Sep. 9

R. M. S. Lucania.


We expect to make the coast of Ireland to-night, and to leave the mails at Queenstown before morning, so I am writing you a line in the hopes that it will be in time to greet you at school, when you arrive. I have thought about you a great deal, my boy, and of the important step in life, which you are now taking, leaving home and the watchful care of your dear Mother; and I cannot help saying again to you from many thousand miles away, what I have tried so often to impress upon you., to be a man, with pluck enough to always do your duty no matter how hard it may seem, and to overcome the obstacles that you are sure to meet.

Every thing depends upon the way in which you begin your school life. You will be alone, and must judge for yourself. Be gentle & kind to Masters and boys, not impatient, when things go wrong, and above all-curb that sometimes unruly temper, my son, and if, by chance, it does cause you to do a foolish, unkind thing, go at once and apologize. Don't forget this---and your lessons!

Remember that more depends upon your work and your willingness to do it cheerfully than any thing else, & keep this always in your mind when the sums in arithmetic seem hard & the Latin sentences apparently make no sense.

Well, little son, I must leave you. I have the greatest confidence in you. Don't, don't let me be disappointed.

Ever your loving


There are three traits of Captain Bacon which appear in a more or less degree in his descendants. The first is a love of the sea, not merely as a calling but as a sportsman loves the water; the second is the love of the horse, not so much for racing as for pleasure in riding; the third, a reserve which bordered on taciturnity without, however, suggesting secretiveness. Each characteristic may be illustrated by an incident.

After Captain Bacon had ceased to follow the sea in person, he settled down as shipowner and merchant trading with China and India. A number of old skippers turned land-lubbers, living in Boston or its neighbourhood, had come to the opinion that "a yachting race" between ships would tend to improve models of small craft. Captain Bacon seems to have been the leading spirit in the movement. He was chosen president of the association formed for the purpose, and his "very sharp ship called the Gamecock" of 1,315 tons register seems to have caused the challenge which appeared in the Spirit of the Times, under date of August 14, 1852:

The ship-builders of Great Britain to race a ship, with cargo on board from a port in England to a port in China and back, one ship to be entered by each party and to be named within a week of the start. The ships to be modelled, commanded and officered entirely by citizens of the United States and Great Britain respectively; to be entitled to rank A 1 either at the American offices or Lloyd's. The stakes to be £10,000 a side, satisfactorily secured by both parties, and to be paid without regard to accident or any exception. The whole amount to be forfeited by either party not appearing. judges to be mutually chosen; reasonable time to be given, after notice of acceptance, to build the ships if required, and also for discharging and loading cargo in China.

The challenged party may name the size of the ships, not under 800 nor over 1200 American registered tons; the weight and measurement which shall be carried each way, the allowance for short weight or oversize. Reference may be made to Messrs. Baring Brothers & Co., for further particulars.


The race did not take place at the time, but later in the races between British and American yachts in the nineties, Captain Bacon's grandson was on hand as a member of the crews of various victorious American vessels. His vacations were from early boyhood spent on the water, and he had become an expert yachtsman before reaching manhood. He rowed on the Harvard crew, as did each of his three sons.

Miss Julia Bacon thus describes the second of the family traits and illustrates it by an incident which was fortunately more galling to the amour propre of Captain Bacon than it was painful to his person:

Grandfather always had wild, tearing horses, and he and his sons all being fond of driving themselves, drove daily to town, each in his own trap. My father one day was jogging quietly along towards home, when he was overtaken by Grandfather driving one of these tearing beasts with both arms outstretched. He dashed by father, looking round as he passed and calling out, "Is your horse tired, Mr. Bacon?"

Just then his wheel went inside of a post, caught fast and away went the horse with the shafts, leaving Grandfather sitting in the road under the chaise top, which had shut down.(21)

The grandson drove for pleasure, rode and played polo not only for exercise, but also to be a companion to his boys in their outdoor sports. He had many and beautiful horses in a large and well-appointed stable at Westbury. But he disposed of them during the war, that he might contribute the more to the cause.

The third trait Miss Bacon states and illustrates in this way:

As an example of the reticence of the whole family, there is a story that Grandfather and two of his sons met on the boat for New York, none of them having mentioned to the others that he was going.(22)

Daniel Bacon, Mr. Bacon's uncle, and William B. Bacon, his father, were doubtless the two sons who unexpectedly accompanied the Captain on this occasion. Each is the hero of an episode of his own.

The story is told of a visit which Daniel Bacon paid to his son at Harvard. They had not seen one another for some months, and the father took a long trip to Cambridge for the sole purpose of visiting his son. On arriving, he greeted him casually and sat in silence for a long time. Finally he rose, with a "Well, Edward, there's nothing more to be said," and made off. Fathers in New as well as in Old England have many a trait in common.

William B. Bacon had a habit of informing his family on the day of his departure for Europe that he only had time to say good-bye and catch the steamer, and Mrs. Bacon recalls an illuminating incident of her early married life, when Mr. Bacon's father was living with them. It was early spring, and she had been spending hours over the packing cases, putting away furs and winter blankets. At the bottom of the case was a fur coat belonging to her father-in-law. While she was busy he entered the room, watched her, and asked what she was doing, but vouchsafed no further comment. A few hours later he remarked, "By the way, where is my fur coat? I am sailing for Europe to-morrow at nine." With an aside to her husband, "I'm glad I married you young," Mrs. Bacon set about unpacking the fur coat.

Robert Bacon could indeed keep his own counsel, and no word escaped him which should not have been said. But he was of an expansive nature, delighting in the society of friends, chatting and listening by turns as became a host or guest whose pleasure was to add to the pleasure and happiness of others. The influence of the mother may have been stronger in this respect than that of the Bacons.

In this account of Mr. Bacon's ancestry, the Mayflower has not figured. The head of the family had come to New England at an early date, but in an unknown vessel. The Bacons had married into good families on the Cape; but hitherto the blood of the descendants of passengers on that famous ship was not theirs. Captain Bacon cured this oversight and he did it in such a way as to leave nothing to be desired. Miss Julia Bacon thus recounts the episode:

Captain Bacon was married [in 1818] soon after returning from this voyage [in The Vancouver] to Desire Taylor Gorham, daughter of Edward Gorham and granddaughter of those fighting Gorhams who took part in all the battles which the Colonists had waged from King Philip's War down to 1812.

They were descended from a de Gorran de la Tanière in Brittany who came over to England with William the Conqueror.

The Pilgrims John Tilley and John Howland, who came to Plymouth in the Mayflower, were also ancestors of Mrs. Bacon, John Howland's daughter having married a Gorham.(23)

Mrs. Bacon died in 1843, and Captain Bacon in 1856, of enlargement of the heart. It was said by his friends that this was impossible as "his heart could not be any larger than it always had been."

William Benjamin Bacon, Mr. Bacon's father, was the second son of the Captain, who sent the first and third sons to sea and the second and fourth to college. He was fitted for college at Phillips Exeter, then and now a famous institution. He entered Harvard College in 1837, and graduated in the Class of 1841, at the age of eighteen. One of his most distinguished classmates was Thomas Wentworth Higginson, preacher, a colonel in the Civil War, and writer of grace, dignity, and charm. He kept in touch with but few of his classmates, probably due to the "reserve" characteristic of the family. Be that as it may, when half a century later thirteen survivors of the Class of 1841 came together to celebrate that happy event and to rejoice in their longevity, Mr. William B. Bacon recognized none of them.

Upon graduation he went as supercargo to China and became a member with his elder brother, Daniel G., of the firm of Daniel G. Bacon and Company. Later he became the agent in Boston for the well-known banking firm of Baring Brothers, and still later he acted as trustee of various estates. He lived in the country, Jamaica Plain, and had his office in Boston.

The first wife of William B. Bacon was a Miss Gassett, of Boston, who died within the first two years of her marriage. Later he married Miss Emily Crosby Low, a sister of his brother Eben's wife. She was Robert Bacon's mother, and a noted beauty. Her younger sister was also beautiful. After their mother's death they dressed in mourning and, skating on Jamaica Pond, they were known as the "Black Swans." The eyes of both were violet, with long black lashes. The distinguished artist, William Morris Hunt, painted Mr. Bacon's mother but could not catch or give an adequate idea of her complexion. To illustrate what he saw but lost, he poured a glass of water over the picture, saying, "when wet it looks like her, when it dries, she goes." She died in 1871, when her son Robert was in his eleventh year. She had been taken from place to place for her health, and when at home the lad had been kept out of the way, so that she might not be disturbed by the least noise. When she died the boy was not allowed to see her. But he yearned for the mother, and he crept into the room where she lay, beautiful in death, that he might see her. From her he seems to have inherited his physical beauty; from her his love of music, for she was notable as a musician; from her the appreciation of the arts and love of literature; from her, if these things are inheritable, his grace of manner and personal charm.

In two letters to her elder son fitting for Harvard at St. Mark's School, in Southboro, Massachusetts, the mother speaks of Robert, then a mere lad at her side. They follow without comment, the first shortly, the second only a month, before her untimely death:


You have been such a good boy to write that I must try and write to you. I was so glad to have Mr. Ludlam visit you and bring me such good accounts of you. He and Bob may possibly make you a call on Tuesday next. I am delighted to hear you got on well with your studies. Do be ambitious and make the most of this good free time for studying. There will never again be so good a chance. When you are older other things will take your time, so "make hay while the sun shines." You are old enough now to think about it for yourself and to take a real interest in improving yourself---at least I hope so---for I did at your age. I hope you have got rid of your tiresome cold. Do take care of yourself.

We are having very cold weather and sleighing and skating which latter Bob makes the most of. I must stop now. Write to me soon again and remember above all the French and the music.


May 17th, Tuesday.


Thanks for all your nice letters. Don't think I forget you because I don't write. Eleanor is away on a journey with Aunt Mary Bacon. Bob has been sick but is well again. . . .

The trees are all coming out and the garden looks lovely, and I suppose the country at Southboro is still more so. If you could only see a little Spitz puppy of Mrs. Rice'--s-just like a little wooly toy dog. The most lovely and cunning thing that ever was seen. It came Sunday in a basket and passed the afternoon with me. Bob and I are quite wild about it. I know you would love it so. I hope it won't grow much before you come home. I wish I could see your theatricals. Papa wants to know about the trains and whether he and Bob could stay all night. You must write at once and let us know. . . . The Fish boys have had their plays again and Bob took the part of Nicholas Nickleby. Papa says he did it very well. . . .

The family evidently tried to keep Master William B. Bacon, Jr., from being homesick. This is Robert Bacon's contribution to the cause, confirming and supplementing the mother's letter:

Boston, May 23d, 1870


I am going to write you a letter to answer the one you wrote me the other day.

I tumbled down to-day and hurt my arm very much so that I have to ware it in a sling.

Mama is very much oblidged to you for those violets you sent her.

Mr. ludlam left Boston on the 18th of May to sail in the scotia for europe so that I can not give him your message.

We have got a little Spitz dog like Mrs. rice's that Mama told you about in her letter. . . .

Is thire a place for us to sleep if we come to see the theatricols.

from your aff brother,




The child is father to the man"




ROBERT BACON, the second son of this second marriage, was born at Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, on July 5, 1860. If he had been consulted, it would have been a day earlier. The ideals of the Fourth of July, 1776, were his ideals, and he lived as if the Fourth of July were his day. On the one hundred forty-first anniversary of that day he stood uncovered with General Pershing and officers of the American Expeditionary Forces before the tomb of Lafayette, whose chivalrous coöperating, entailing that of his country, caused the ideals of the Declaration of Independence to prevail through a happy union of American and French arms on the battlefields of the New and the Old World.

While the lad was still of tender age, the father moved to 63 Beacon Street, Boston, probably on account of the mother's health.

The grandfather, Captain Bacon, had sent his boys alternately to sea and to Harvard. William B. Bacon, the father, was the second son and, appreciating the advantages of a college training, he established a different precedent which has hardened into a rule, that every Bacon goes to college. Robert Bacon was accordingly sent to Hopkinson's School, then a famous nursery for the college. He entered Harvard when he was just turned sixteen, and graduated in June, 1880, on the verge of his twentieth birthday. He was the youngest man of a class which included a future President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, who, in the opinion of many people, bids fair to become, with Washington and Lincoln, the third in the trinity of illustrious presidents.

His chum at the Hopkinson School, his roommate in Harvard College, and his warm friend through life was Dr. Henry Jackson, a distinguished physician of Boston and Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He knew Mr. Bacon most intimately in his early years and is perhaps the best qualified to speak of his earlier days as an undergraduate, and the impression which he made on his classmates. Doctor Jackson writes:

He entered Harvard College in the fall of 1876 and at once won the affection and regard of all who had the advantage of his acquaintance. He was singularly blessed by nature by a superb physique to which was added a manly beauty; he may well be chosen as a type of the perfection of manhood at its best, seldom equalled and surely never excelled. None who knew him in his early life could gainsay this rather extravagant opinion of Bacon as a man of almost perfect physique. He was more blest by a spirit of kindness, gentleness, devotion to his friends and a high ideal of life from which he never deviated. He made many and warm friends in all walks of life; he could not make an enemy. In disposition he was jovial, friendly, very fond of a lark or any social pleasure, yet behind all was a deep sense of his responsibility to himself and others, an unswerving devotion to what was to his mind the really important issue of the moment, whether that issue was a baseball game, a college examination, the welfare of Harvard College or the safety and honor of the United States.

He was much interested in all athletic sports, rather from a real love of all outdoor activities than from a wish to excel in any one branch. His superb physique placed him in a position to excel in any sport that he was interested in. He was rusher on the Freshman football eleven (or rather fifteen as it was at that time), first base and captain of the Freshman baseball team, a member of the University football team, and one year its captain, winner in heavyweight sparring, one hundred yard dash and quarter mile run, and rowed number seven on the University crew. He was president of the Glee Club, and took a prominent part in all the theatrical performances of the various college clubs of which he was a member. In spite of all the social and athletic interests of his college life he stood well in his classes, and was graduated well up in the upper third of his class, having had no low marks during his whole college career.

He was in all respects the most popular man in the class, respected by all, beloved by many; success in athletics necessarily brings to a college man popularity of a certain kind; his popularity was deeper, more lasting, dependent not upon his success as an athlete, but upon the deep respect and devotion due to a man of fine character who was modest, kindly to all, generous, and possessed of a sunny, jovial disposition, ready to enter into all the various joys and amusements of a normal college man. He was Chief Marshal on Class Day, and in 1905, when the Chief Marshal of the Alumni Association for Commencement was to be chosen, his name was the only one thought of or considered.(24)

Of the many incidents of college days there are a few which are individual and distinctive. Three may serve as a sample of others that might be selected. The first is a challenge to a game of baseball from the Cambridge High School Nine of which Howard Elliott, later president of the Northern Pacific Railway and more recently president of the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railway Company, was captain, to the Harvard Freshman Nine, of which Robert Bacon, then aged sixteen, was captain. This letter, preserved among Mr. Bacon's papers, is in Mr. Elliott's handwriting, with a plentiful supply of blots and abbreviations more becoming business communications than literary performances.

This important document---for such it must have seemed to the two principals---is literally as follows:

Cambridge, June 18, 1877.


The Cambridge High School Nine hereby challenges the Freshman Nine of Harvard College to a game of ball to be played Wed. June 20th or Sat. June 23rd (Wed. being preferable) on Holmes' Field.

As in a game played previously the ball was furnished by the C. H. S. I suppose it will be provided in this game by the Freshmen.

We are certain that our regular umpire would give entire satisfaction to the Freshmen and we would like to engage him unless the Freshmen object.

Game to be called as early as may be convenient for you.

Appian Way.

A speedy reply is requested.

The second incident is that of the quarter-mile run, which Mr. Bacon won. He was not an aspirant for this honour, but the expert in that line had no competition, and apparently he did not want to perform alone. Therefore he spoke to William Hooper, one of his classmates and friends, who suggested that Robert Bacon should run against him. The prospective victim consented to run if Hooper would act as his trainer and manager. This was agreed to and for several days Bacon trained and practised. But he soon tired of the task, slipped off to bed instead of training, as he was young and growing and required eleven hours of sleep. The fateful day came. Mr. Bacon turned up, however. The runners started and Mr. Bacon dashed forward with his head in the air, took, and kept the lead. Near the goal his competitor somehow tripped and fell and Mr. Bacon, little suspecting what had happened, crossed the line a victor, to the great disgust of the other party, and to the amusement of the bystanders who knew the circumstances of the case. Had he known that his classmate had fallen by the wayside, he would have turned back even though he lost. This was the case later on, for the Harvard crew, on which he rowed, did turn back when the Yale stroke broke his oar shortly after the start. The Harvard boat lost. In all kinds of sport and in the larger game of life, Mr. Bacon wanted to win, but he preferred to lose if he could not win honourably. The third incident is connected with Theodore Roosevelt. Mr. Bacon was Mr. Roosevelt's faithful friend and follower from the beginning to the end of his political career. He accepted office at his hands, and stood by him in the trying days of 1912 when Mr. Roosevelt sought renomination within the Republican Party. With him he left the Republican fold when the Convention of that year nominated President Taft and voted with the new Progressive Party, of which Mr. Roosevelt became the first and only candidate for President. On his part, Mr. Roosevelt numbered Mr. Bacon among a few of his "chief friends," whom he described in his undergraduate letters:

Bob Bacon is the handsomest man in the Class and is as pleasant as he is handsome.

In this incident Mr. Bacon doubly deserved the epithet "handsome." Mr. Roosevelt was very near-sighted, but he was fond of boxing and had the ambition in college to shine in the prize-ring. He looked upon Mr. Bacon as the athlete of the class and constantly urged him to put on the gloves. This Mr. Bacon did now and then, when his chief preoccupation was not to hit too hard lest he break "T. R.'s" glasses, which he was obliged to wear even on such occasions. However, the bouts with Mr. Bacon gave Mr. Roosevelt pleasure, for he repeatedly said in great glee that he would have "landed" if his arms had only been longer and Bacon's not so long.



Many statements of Mr. Bacon's preëminence as an athlete come from Harvard and therefore from sources which may seem overfriendly. Mr. Walter Camp, the admitted authority on football in this country, and as loyal a son of Yale as Mr. Bacon was of Harvard, will not be suspected of partiality in his treatment of a rival. This is what Mr. Camp says:

In the spring of 1877, a tall crinkly haired blond giant, handsome as an Adonis, captained the Harvard Freshman baseball team. Four years later, thickened up, and grown more stalwart through work on the gridiron and the river, this same handsome giant stood on the field in a crimson jersey as captain of the Harvard football team. Robert Bacon was one of Harvard's great athletes, and was not only respected by his opponents for his physical strength and agility but admired and held in deep and sincere affection by them all for his love of sport and fair play. And he carried them all through life. It seems a pity that so many of the long obituary notices of him fail to mention his football career, for the game owed much to him. At the time when it stood in jeopardy some years after his graduation, he organized a committee of most representative college men to investigate thoroughly the charges that it was injuring the youth of the land physically, and after a year spent in thoroughly going over the history of every man who had played upon the Harvard, Yale, and Princeton teams, since the introduction of Intercollegiate Rugby football into this country in the fall of 1876, this committee furnished the public such a convincing report of the falsity of the accusation that football was not only cleared but justifiably advanced to a high position in the public mind. . . .

We shall never see his like again.

Chapter Three
Table of Contents